Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityTruckers want changes to I-459 due to accidents | WBMA
Close Alert

Truckers want changes to I-459 due to accidents

I-459 Overturned truck{ }
I-459 Overturned truck
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon
Comment bubble

This is just one example of a major accident on I-459: The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency says a big rig truck overturned after it hydroplaned on I-459 last week.

The driver lost control on the wet road as he crossed the Cahaba River Bridge near the Liberty Parkway exit in Vestavia Hills.

He told state troopers that he was traveling under the speed limit—about 60 to 65 miles an hour when the accident happened. He suffered minor injuries. The morning rush hour was an absolute mess.

Gary King has been a truck driver for decades. He works for the Commercial Hauling Company. He travels that same route on I-459.

“It’s an unsafe route, period,” King said. “I think the engineers should go out there today and look at it. Just watch the traffic and see what they’ve done. I think they should try to redesign—go back out there and redo it.”

I-459 near Liberty Park and the Cahaba River Bridge has been the scene of many accidents in recent years. We know that because we’ve covered them. And many of you sit in your cars and wait for the accident scenes to be cleared.

Tommy Phillips is maintenance director for Deep South Freight and occasionally drives a truck. He avoids the I-459 Liberty Park area whether he’s in a truck or in his personal car.

“It’s just the layout of that interstate,” Phillips said. “That bridge. The curve in it. And I’ve just never felt safe down there with all the traffic accidents and all you hear.”

We asked the Alabama Department of Transportation for a list of accidents in this area since 2016. We’re told that request is still going through ALDOT’s legal department and will take weeks.

ALDOT: Driver error and driver behavior remain the cause of nearly every crash

But ALDOT spokesman Tony Harris said, “Driver error, and driver behavior, remain the cause of nearly every crash in Alabama—and those on I-459 are no different.”

But how can this area be made safer? While modifying the road would be a major expense, the truckers we spoke with had several other recommendations.

Recommendation: Reduce the speed limit

One of the recommendations we've heard from truckers is to reduce the speed limit. It’s 70 miles an hour out there. They say that’s awfully fast—especially as you approach the Cahaba River Bridge.

ALDOT says the 70 mile an hour speed limit was established based on engineering studies. But drivers should reduce their speeds based on traffic and weather conditions.

Recommendation: Allow truckers to use Jake brakes

Meantime, truckers would like to use Jake brakes there. That’s an engine brake that releases compressed air trapped in the cylinders—and that slows down the truck. It can be noisy, but truckers say it’s safer.

“The drivers are trying to keep control of that truck,” King said as the noise from a truck’s Jake brake could be heard nearby. “Right there. That’s all it is. To help maintain control of that truck.”

“No Jake Brake” sign confusion

While the ALDOT signs in this area say, “No Jake Brakes”, the Vestavia Hills noise ordinance actually allows truckers to use them.

“If the use of a Jake brake is necessary for deceleration due to safety concerns, we would fully expect a driver to engage the brake,” said Vestavia Hills Communications Specialist Cinnamon McCulley. “The sign belongs to ALDOT and any alteration would be at their discretion.”

But ALDOT says it’s not going to change the wording on the signs, even though it’s been incorrect for years.

McCulley said reducing the speed limit on I-459 near Liberty Park is a new suggestion.

She plans to pass that on to the Vestavia Hills engineering department for further investigation

Comment bubble

If Vestavia Hills chooses to move forward, they could request ALDOT to do a speed study. We’ll keep you posted.

Loading ...